DNA, how it repairs itself in Space


A genetic editing experiment conducted for the first time with Crispr-Cas9 on the International Space Station, useful for the protection of astronauts in view of long missions

(photo: Sciepro / Getty Images. Artist’s impression of the International Space Station)

Crispr-Cas9 even goes beyond the borders of the Earth. For the first time a team of researchers, in collaboration with thecrew of the International Space Station (ISS), proved that this revolutionary system of editing of dna it also works in space. The sense of the experiment was recreate in a controlled manner a particular type of damage to the DNA (the breakage of the double strand, to which astronauts are more exposed due to the action of the cosmic radiation) to study how i repair mechanisms of the cells intervene in conditions of microgravità and what differences there are with what happens on Earth.

Following the protocol of the project Genes in Space, the researchers inserted the components of the Crispr-Cas9 system into yeast cells (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) shipped on board the ISS: la molecular scissor it was designed for cut the double strand of DNA simulating, in a controlled way, a type of damage that the cosmic radiation they often induce on genetic material and that can be very dangerous.

The double-strand break can give rise to a series of changes in the genome that can predispose to the onset of pathologies even serious ones, such as cancer. This DNA injury can also occur on Earth (it is induced for example by UV rays) but the astronauts that spend months in space are more exposed, and they will be even more so in long-term space missions that are in the offing. For this reason, according to scientists, it is essential to understand more, and in particular to observe how cells try to repair the damage to dna in space: are there any differences compared to what happens on Earth?

The success of the experiment, described in the journal Plos One, is a first step in finding the answer. “It is not just about having successfully implemented new technologies such as genome editing with Crispr, PCR and DNA sequencing using nanopores under extreme conditions, but also being able to integrate in a functionally complete biotechnology workflow applicable to the study of DNA repair mechanisms and other fundamental cellular processes in conditions of microgravity”Commented Sebastian Kraves, head of the study. “These developments make us hope even more in the possibility for the human being to explore and inhabit Space in its vastness“, he added.

With the acquisition of new knowledge, in short, perhaps in the future we will be able to safeguard the best salute astronauts and – who knows – gods settlers from other worlds.


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